Sunday, August 30, 2009

August... where did the time go?

Well, I'll tell you...

Thanks a great deal to Jody and my Mom taking good care of me, the Avastin backlash was broken. I met with Dr. Shih one more time and was doing muuuuch better, just in time to take a little trip to Cape Cod.

Our friend's sister was getting married (congratulations and thanks, Robbie and Jeanine!) and Jody and I had been planning to spend a long weekend in Falmouth to enjoy the beach and the wedding. That went really really well for me despite my initial ambivalence about New England and anxiety over my situation. I found that as long as I ate whole foods instead of things that were too heavily processed, I felt pretty good. I wasn't running marathons by any stretch, but I did okay. Getting home by myself was a challenge, but I lived. Jody stayed on for a few days more to visit with Sarah (Jeanine's older sister).

Sadly though, Jody's flight home was abutted by the death of her grandmother. We repacked and drove home to PA for the funeral which was a tender time. Grammy had lived 93 vibrant years and the time taken remembering and honoring her was well spent.

Back here at home I'm leaning into the wind that is Xeloda, once again. I'd had a visit with Dr. Lee while Jody was still on the Cape to discuss the analysis of my most recent CT scan (of the 17th). The known spots have grown a little and have multiplied in the interim of Avastin alone so that trial seems to have failed. She and I also discussed recommendations made by Dr. Hwang, a research oncologist at Georgetown Univeristy Hospital whom I'd met back on the 19th, right before the trip.

Dr. Hwang had seen me to answer my questions about possibly participating in a clinical trial applying a developmental colo-rectal cancer vaccine as a therapy. Unfrotunately, the trial had already closed, but since it was a therapy in concert with chemo and my CEA rising was steering me back to chemo, why not check it out?

He did send me home with details of another trial but one using a different chemotherapy and that may or may not be one that has had good results with my particular genetic goulash. Dr. Lee ordered the DNA test for K-RAS to see if my case might fit and better help me decide, but there are other factors to consider. I'd have to move my care to Georgetown and that would mean routine trips into the city for drips and tests and such; not very appealing. The traffic sucks pretty much all day and the insult is complete only having to pay for parking. Bleagh.

Still, the K-RAS test might also indicate that another chemotherapy could help me more. I don't really have to do much but wait for the test results.

In the meantime, my CEA is rising and the lesions are trying to grow and spread. Rather than mix things up too much at once, I elected to go back on Xeloda alone mostly because the side effects are pretty well known in me and I've responded well to it several times in the past. I know it will increase my fatigue, but I also know I can avoid dairy and heavily processed/preserved/fatty foods to head off the worst of the effects. I think this next batch will go a lot easier than before.

If the K-RAS test comes back indicating I can go for the trial or that another chemo might be more successful, great. While that is going on, I'd like to try to define what state I might have to reach before surgery to remove the lesions would be worth my while. I'm also going to lobby Dr. Lee to have biopsies taken again; to this date, only my liver has ever been needled and it came back negative. If I'm taking treatment for metastatic disease, I think it should be verified.

Some part of me chuckles at the thought that an HMO would have probably balked at any treatment I've been getting until those biopsies told them they had to pay... ;)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

back from the gastrointerologist

For those whom haven't seen my facebook updates, I've been struggling to beat some very unusual diarrhoea that the usual fluids and bland diet weren't knocking out. Even a weeks' worth of Cipro didn't break it. I've missed a lot of work and been very very depressed and unhappy. Life really sucked.

Past tense.

I don't want to claim victory just yet but the past two days have been a lot better. I paid a visit to my gastrointerologist last week who sent me homw with test vials to fill up. Ahem.

I met with him again today and learned all of the tests came back negative. It's been three weeks since my last Avastin drip. With the improvement I've experienced as of yesterday, we're both pretty confident the Avastin was the problem.

That puts me in a tough spot though. The Avastin was supposed to be a maintenance therapy; something to avoid lots more chemo. Thus, my next visit with the onc will probably mean chemo pills. Again. :(

While I'm glad this seems to be untangled, I'm still on a rope. I don't know if I can get a smaller dose of Avastin or possibly a stiffer shot of chemo, but it's sure looking like I'll be hypermiling whatever therapy I go to next; gas, coast, gas, coast...

I have a CT scan on Monday to see how the Avastin alone measured up, but it's going to have been nearly four weeks since I had to cut it off. The mets may have had a chance to grow in that time and negate the time I spent off chemo. On the flip side though, that scan will give me fresh images to show the research doctor I'm meeting with next Wednesday down at Georgetown University...

They've got a study going on right now applying an experimental colo-rectal cancer vaccine as a therapy coincident with chemo. I might qualify and, frankly, if I have to go back on chemo anyway, why not participate?